My clients often ask me about my thoughts on the national discourse, why we are so angry, fearful, attacking, and mean with people who think and believe differently than we do. My answer has stayed the same: Disconnection. Research has shown, time and time again, that humans are wired for connection. If you are a client of mine you have probably heard me say that without connection we are walking tacos for bears and mountain lions: we cannot survive in this world without connection.
The new immigration policy set in place by the Trump administration is a brutal example of how Disconnection can harm individuals, families, communities, and a nation. The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) recently published a quick summary of research exploring how the new immigration policy affects children both now and in the future, even after the immediate threat has passed.
Photo from Dallas News
In relationship therapy I use a framework called Relational Accountability, which encourages partners to be aware of the unintended messages they are sending to their loved ones and the negative effects of these messages. Here's the kicker: even if you didn't INTEND to send a negative message, the effect of that message hurts others just the same. Your lack of intention to hurt does not negate the hurt the other feels.
Similarly, we need to be aware of the hurt and trauma this policy inflicts on children and their families and be accountable for it. When clients ask about my thoughts on national policy, public discussions on law and order, or social media trends I always look for how Disconnection is involved. It is usually behind the scenes, not wanting to be noticed overtly but felt by everyone through Fear and Anger.
When Disconnection is present, I suggest looking for ways to cut its legs out from under it. Offer to listen, to debate. Share your experience for others to learn from. Find similar underlying values and discuss how they came to be important to both parties. Speak up and find ways you can help families suffering from the worst of Disconnection find the Connection they need to begin the healing process.